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Flipping Awesome! Enabling Mastery Learning in the Flipped Classroom

One of the Many Advantages of the Flipped Classroom is how Well it Supports the Mastery Learning Model.

Have you every found yourself pretty far along in teaching a course only to realize that many students are struggling with a new topic because they really didn’t get the foundational material that came before it (maybe I should ask, “who hasn’t”)? You’re not alone. So many subjects – math, music, foreign languages, science, English … and the list goes on, require students to understand topic 1 before they can properly grasp topic 2.

So what can you do to help ensure that many students don’t fall behind as you have to keep moving forward in order to stay on track?

Enter Mastery Learning

Mastery Learning is, simply put, an approach to teaching that requires students to attain a pre-defined level of proficiency in a topic before they can move on to the next topic in a course (Mastery Learning is sometimes considered synonymous with Competency Based Learning, and they are certainly quite similar, but they are not necessarily one and the same). This approach is particularly effective and vital in any course where the content builds on prior learning. The idea has been around for decades, but it has been challenging to implement until recently. Today’s instructional technology tools can be used to make the Mastery Learning approach far more achievable than it was in the ‘pre-tech’ classrooms of the past.

In this video, Jonathan Bergmann provides a quick overview of why he moved to the Mastery Learning model in his classroom, and how it enables him to differentiate learning and provide more effective instruction for all of his students.

How Does the Flipped Classroom Facilitate Mastery Learning?

The Flipped Classroom model naturally lends itself to Mastery Learning. This New York Time Opinionator piece, “In ‘Flipped’ Classrooms, a Method for Mastery”, helps to shed further light on how the two teaching constructs compliment each other.

“In a traditional classroom, the teacher must aim the lecture at the middle, leaving the faster learners bored and the slower ones lost. Differentiation and personalization are big challenges. But the mastery system allows each student to learn at her own pace.

Since the flipped classroom eliminates the whole-class lecture, they’ve realized, it has also eliminated the reason for students to work at a uniform pace.”

Setting up your class for successful flipping and Mastery Learning takes some work, no doubt, but I like to remind teachers in my Online Flipped Classroom Workshops that you can ease into this. Thinking you have to do all the work up front to flip the majority of your course is a sure way to get scared off of the idea (or get burnt out, if you choose to proceed that way). Start small and flip a section or two of material. Learn as you go, and partner with another teacher or two to share the work of finding and creating content. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be personalizing learning in your classroom and helping your students achieve in ways they never thought possible!

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